During the City Council break Monday and before the Market Building presentation I spoke to the Mayor’s secretary, Joyce Johnson. Mayor Bowers came in and gave me the following statement: “Some folks seem to be fighting the last Mayor’s race – some folks seem to be positioning themselves for the next Mayor’s race … and I just simply believe that one Mayor at a time is good enough for Roanoke and this Mayor needs a secretary and the best in town is Joyce Johnson.”
Johnson described how she was a personal assistant to the Mayors and described how she adjusted to each of the Mayor’s different styles. Spreading the duties among multiple people would create caos she thought. Johnson said, “there is just so many little things … [the position needs] someone that is committed to the personal touch of service and support.” As an example Johnson said she was able to secure a visa for then Mayor Harris is just 4 days for his trip to China. “You need to know how to handle this,” said Johnson.
Johnson gave a written statement today to Roanoke City Council. Johnson has worked for as Secretary for 4 Mayors over 12 years (Bowers twice).
Johnson in her statement quoted Council members who replied to her email saying they could not intervene. Several Council members also verbalized the same at the Council meeting Monday. They asked Sherman Stovall, Director of Management and Budget several times whether anyone would lose their job. The question was meant to make a point that there were position eliminations and not staff layoffs. Councilwoman Gwen Mason accused the press of misstating the facts. (Note: In my posts I said elimination not layoff and I don’t recall hearing any other media say differently either.)
I believe that two members of Council “brought pressure to bear” upon the City Clerk to change her original elimination notification of a staff person. (Administrative Assistant III) on March 16, 2009, after a Council meeting on that date, to the position of Assistant to the Mayor, (Administrative Assistant IV), and me, on the morning of March 17, then placing a “hold” on that notification on the afternoon of March 17, and proceeding to notify me once again of the elimination on April 7. That staff person has also suffered emotionally and physically during this time of uncertainty, having to seek medical treatment.
I don’t think the decision was representative of a thorough and complete assessment of job tasks and responsibilities of all positions in the City Clerk’s office and the performance of the people holding those positions, and the whole process has been less than honorable, professional and equitable and has verged on inhumane. If the reasoning behind the position/person to be eliminated was based on “those girls are single and need their jobs”, then it demonstrates bias favoritism, not qualifications or performance, and it is illegal.
I submit to you that the City Clerk is not knowledgeable of the magnitude, volume, importance and degree of responsibility of the tasks performed during my years as Assistant to the Mayor. I have served as a direct personal link to the citizens and organizations of Roanoke, state, national and international contacts. A community organization leader said to me on Friday, “you cannot put a value on that.”
I respectfully request that the position of Assistant to the Mayor be removed from reporting supervision of the City Clerk. This person faces the continual challenge of “serving two masters” with the Mayor in office and the City Clerk. This relationship, in the best of circumstances, requires constant assessment of directions and accountability on a daily basis and, in the worst circumstances, creates a power pull of personalities, lack of communication, stress, confusion and jealousy. I personally do not look forward to coming to a job every day, for the remaining time – no matter how long or short that might be – to a Supervisor who does not want me, does not need me and a staff where three-quarters of them all but totally ignore me.
I would suggest that Council request a complete audit/review of the City Clerk’s office, including individual job tasks, attendance of the Clerk and staff, time reporting, hiring and promotion practices, including qualifications, experience, criminal background checks and consistency of performance reviews.
I have loved serving the citizens of Roanoke and three Mayors. I have given 110% to that service for almost 12 years.
I am now a “sacrificial lamb” for people with political ambitions and a victim of inept supervisory skills.
I am not a disgruntled employee … I am a person who saw an injustice and felt that I should speak up, not just for me, but for all the others, past, present and future who pass through the revolving door of the City Clerk’s office.
The elimination of the Assistant to the Mayor position is unjustifiable and just plain wrong, now and in the future.